Probate and Trust Administration
When an individual dies, their affairs need to be put in order. Typically a family member will step up if no estate plan was made, or the executor named in the individual's will or the successor trustee of the individual's trust will step up.
Whether the person had a trust, just a will or did no estate planning, it is often helpful to have an attorney assist you with the administration of that individual's estate.
Small estates can often be managed without the help of an attorney, but you may want or need assistance in the drafting of affidavits of small estate or other documents to claim assets from banks. Real property worth less than $50,000 has an expedited probate process with the court that does not require a hearing, but the forms have to be properly completed and then recorded.
If the total estate (gross value!) is less than $184,500 and the Real property in the estate is valued between $55,000 and $184,500, there is a different expedited procedure that does require a court hearing. You may need assistance with this type of court action.
Probate is required in California for estates valued at more the $184,500. The probate process allows the court to verify the validity of the Will (if there was one), determine what liabilities must be paid from your estate, settle any claims against the estate, provide for the sale of property, and distributes the remainder of the estate to your heirs-at-law (if you have no Will) or to your named beneficiaries (if you do have a Will). This process can take from seven to eighteen months or longer in California and it is very labor intensive. As the Attorney’s and administrator’s fees are governed by state law, the cost can be significant and will be paid before any other expenses or distribution can be made. The process can be a difficult process for a family following the death of a loved one.
If the individual executed a trust and properly titled their banking, investment and retirement accounts and real estate before their death, the probate process can be avoided and the estate can be settled timely, cost-effective manner.
While trust administration is usually not as complicated as the administration of a probate case, there are still administrative tasks that must be accomplished in accordance with the law, so every trustee should consult with an attorney at the outset of the administration of a trust.
Working with an attorney can streamline the process and assure the trustee that they have properly managed the estate.
To learn more about dealing with a probate situation or how to administer a trust after the death of a loved one, or to schedule a consultation to discuss creating a trust, or reviewing other options available to create an estate plan, contact Mary Heare Amodio at 707.263.5759.